Former Knicks Guard Enjoyed Playing With Ewing "At Times"

Days after Charles Oakley criticized Patrick Ewing on CBS Sports Radio, Derek Harper shared his perspective on the topic – and the 1994 NBA Finals

Tiki and Tierney
April 15, 2020 - 6:46 pm
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On Monday, Charles Oakley dropped by The DA Show and sounded off on several former teammates, including Patrick Ewing, who he called “high-maintenance.” On Wednesday, former Knicks guard Derek Harper dropped by Tiki & Tierney to give his take on Ewing – and Oakley’s comments in general.

Harper, who played for the Knicks from 1994 to 1996, prefaced his comments by saying he respects Oakley, he respects Ewing, and both are dear friends.

“Charles Oakley was the heart and soul of our basketball team,” Harper said. “He was the leader of our team. That’s not to say that Patrick wasn’t a leader. Anything that Oak says, he means. He’s not just blowing smoke. That’s how he truly feels, and that’s his opinion. Patrick, to me, led a little bit by example. I think all of us have to take onus on . . . not winning in ’94.”

The Knicks reached the NBA Finals in 1994, ultimately losing to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in a seven-game thriller. 

“Oak is talking about, in my opinion, about Patrick being selfish,” Harper said. “There were a lot of situations where Oak feels like Patrick could have stepped up. There were a lot of situations where I think Oak feels like Patrick could have stepped up for, whether it’s a player, whether it was a coach, and Patrick didn’t do that. Patrick is a little bit different. He takes care of Patrick. That’s the bottom line.”

Oakley said that Ewing “hurt us sometimes,” implying that he held the Knicks back from reaching their full potential.

“I don’t know exactly how he meant that, but I wouldn’t say that Patrick held us back,” Harper said. “That’s ludicrous. However . . . during our run, I think there was situations where plays needed to be made, and I think Oak feels like Patrick was a little bit selfish when it comes to making the right play. I think that’s what Oak is talking about. . . . Oak wears his feelings on his sleeve. He’s going to tell you how he feels. Oak is my guy.”

Harper, 58, was a first-round draft pick in 1983 and played 16 seasons in the NBA. He was asked if he enjoyed playing with Ewing. 

“At times,” he said. “And at times I didn’t. Plain and simple. I would tell Patrick that. Let me say this: There are no perfect basketball players. Michael Jordan is the GOAT, but not perfect. There are things that guys do – Patrick shot with two and three guys hanging on him a lot of nights, and there were times when people were wide open. Surely he wasn’t just doing it to do it. He was doing it because he felt like he could dominate.”

Ewing averaged 18.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and 1.7 assists in the 1994 Finals. Olajuwon averaged 26.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 3.6 assists and was named Finals MVP.

“I’ll put it to you this way,” Harper said. “We lost to the Rockets in ’94. The difference in winning and losing that series was Olajuwon’s unselfish nature, so to speak, to move the basketball when the basketball needed to be moved. That was the difference in us winning and the difference in Houston beating us. Plain and simple. . . . I’m not saying Patrick wasn’t a great basketball player. He was. But there were times where I thought the ball should have moved, and it didn’t move. It forces you to take low-percentage shots and make low-percentage plays, if you would.”